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Why is there a chair for Elijah at a Brit?

by Rabbi Tzvi Shapiro

  

Library » Life Cycle » Circumcision » The Customs | Subscribe | What is RSS?


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It is customary at a Brit to set aside a chair for Elijah the Prophet who is called the "Angel of the Brit".1 He attained this honorable position due to his zeal in upholding this great Mitzvah. G-d therefore promised him that he would be present at every Brit.2

When the baby is brought into the room he is placed on this chair for a brief moment, during which the Mohel says:

"This is the Seat of Elijah the Prophet, may he be remembered for good. For Your deliverance I hope, O Lord.3 I have hoped for Your deliverance, Lord, and I have performed Your commandments.4 Elijah, angel of the Covenant, here is yours before you; stand at my right and support me. I rejoice in Your word, like one who finds great spoil.5 Those who love Your Torah have abounding peace, and there is no stumbling for them.6 Happy is the man You choose and bring near to dwell in Your courtyards; we will be satiated with the goodness of Your House, Your Holy Temple."

Footnotes

  • 1. Liturgy of Brit ceremony, based on Malachi 3:1 and 23 - "“Behold I send My angel… And behold! The angel of the covenant… I will send you Elijah the prophet”.
  • 2. Zohar vol. I p. 93a - The Zohar comments on the verse (Kings I 19:10) in which Elijah tells G-d “I have been zealous for the Lord, the God of Hosts, for the Children of Israel have forsaken Your covenant.” Says the Zohar that G-d responded: “by your life (expression of an oath), every time this holy sign is etched in the flesh of my children you will be there to witness it, and the mouth that said the Children of Israel abandoned it will testify that the Children of Israel are upholding it”.
  • 3. Genesis 49:18.
  • 4. Psalms 119:166.
  • 5. Ibid 119:162.
  • 6. Ibid. 119:165.

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Mitzvah
(pl. Mitzvot). A commandment from G-d. Mitzvah also means a connection, for a Jew connects with G–d through fulfilling His commandments.
Torah
Torah is G–d’s teaching to man. In general terms, we refer to the Five Books of Moses as “The Torah.” But in truth, all Jewish beliefs and laws are part of the Torah.
Brit
[Lit. Covenant] Circumcision. The act of removing ones foreskin 8 days after birth, perpetuating a covenant with G-d originally established by the Patriarch Abraham.
Elijah
A legendary prophet who lived in the 8th century BCE, and saved the Jewish religion from being corrupted by the pagan worship of Baal. He never died, he was taken to heaven alive. According to Jewish tradition, he visits every circumcision and every Passover Seder table.
Mohel
One who performs ritual circumcisions.
Temple
1. Usually a reference to the Holy Temple which was/will be situated in Jerusalem. 1st Temple was built in 825 BCE and was destroyed in 423 BCE. The 2nd Temple was built in 350 BCE and was destroyed in 70 CE. The 3rd Temple will be built by the Messiah. 2. A synagogue.
G-d
It is forbidden to erase or deface the name of G-d. It is therefore customary to insert a dash in middle of G-d's name, allowing us to erase or discard the paper it is written on if necessary.